Leader of Belarus rejects calls to rerun presidential vote

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MINSK, Belarus —
The embattled president of Belarus on Sunday rejected any risk of repeating the vote that gave him a sixth time period, lashing out on the West and declaring that his nation would “perish as a state” if the election have been rerun.

Alexander Lukashenko spoke at a rally of tens of 1000’s of supporters close to the principle authorities constructing within the capital of Minsk. Protesters demanding his resignation organized a close-by opposition rally, which attracted a crowd that appeared to swell past 100,000. It was the ninth straight day of anti-government demonstrations.

Lukashenko has dominated with an iron fist since 1994, repressing opposition figures and impartial information media. However this 12 months, protesters fed up with the nation’s declining dwelling requirements and Lukashenko’s dismissal of the coronavirus pandemic have posed the largest problem to his 26-year rule.

The 65-year-old president claimed Sunday that Western powers have been gathering navy models in nations alongside Belarus’ western borders and denounced ideas by some Western nations that Belarus ought to repeat the Aug. 9 presidential vote, which opposition supporters say gave Lukashenko a victory solely by way of huge fraud. Official outcomes say he acquired 80% of the vote.

“If we comply with their lead (and rerun the election), we’ll perish as a state,” Lukashenko declared, a day after saying he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed that Russia would ship unspecified safety help to the previous Soviet republic if Lukashenko requested for it.

In earlier months, Lukashenko had warned that Putin needed to take over Belarus, a nation of 9.5 million folks in Jap Europe that has an extended border with Russia.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu dismissed the president’s declare, tweeting that there isn’t any NATO buildup within the area.

“NATO’s multinational presence within the jap a part of the Alliance is just not a risk to any nation,” Lungescu mentioned. “It’s strictly defensive, proportionate & designed to forestall battle & protect peace.”

The Collective Treaty Safety Group, a navy alliance of six former Soviet states together with Belarus, mentioned Sunday it could decide about offering help if Belarus requested it.

Hundreds have been arrested on the post-election protests, which police tried to place down with golf equipment, rubber bullets and flash grenades. When many detainees have been later launched, they confirmed intensive bruises they mentioned have been resulting from police beatings. Some protesters carried photos of family members they mentioned had been overwhelmed so badly that they may not attend.

As Lukashenko’s supporters waited for his look Sunday, many chanted his nickname of “Batka,” or “father.”

Additionally they chanted “Maidan gained’t happen,” referring to the months of protests in Ukraine in 2013 and 2014 that drove then-President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the nation. Shortly after Yanukovych’s departure, Putin then moved to annex all the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine, claiming an enormous swath of its Black Beach for Russia.

“Now everyone is towards Lukashenko, and the president wants our assist. Everyone all of the sudden has forgotten the great issues he has finished — there’s order within the nation, we don’t have battle or starvation,” mentioned supporter Tamara Yurshevich, a 35-year-old lawyer.

As Lukashenko spoke, throngs of opponents converged on a park about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles away). Within the late afternoon, they streamed into the sq. vacated by Lukashenko supporters.

In distinction to the primary days of protest when giant contingents of police and particular forces have been deployed towards protesters, police seemed to be all however absent when the opposition supporters entered the sq..

Protesters have been thrilled by the turnout Sunday, and plenty of felt that they had momentum.

“The results of the election is on the streets and squares of Belarus right this moment — it is a sea of people that won’t ever comply with reside as earlier than with Lukashenko,” mentioned Feliks Zharikov, an engineer who got here along with his spouse and son.

“All of the sudden, the temper in society modified and everybody all of the sudden understood that Lukashenko misplaced,” mentioned Anna Trushevich, a college biology teacher.

European Union overseas ministers have rejected the election outcomes and on Friday started drawing up a listing of officers in Belarus who may face sanctions. If Lukashenko have been to renew a harsh crackdown, the response from the West may very well be even stronger.

However calling on Russia for navy assist can be perilous. Though Russia and Belarus agreed in 1997 to a detailed union, Lukashenko regularly claims that his large neighbor goals to soak up Belarus fully. Within the run-up to the election, Belarus arrested 33 Russian personal navy contractors whom it claimed had been despatched int to destabilize the nation.

On Sunday, a video circulated on YouTube that purported to point out Belarus’ ambassador to Slovakia, Igor Leshchenya, expressing “solidarity with those that got here out on the streets of Belarusian cities with peaceable marches in order that their voice may very well be heard.”

The embassy couldn’t be reached for remark, however Slovakia International Minister Ivan Korcok indicated the video was official. It could be the primary indication of dissent at a excessive stage of presidency.

“We have now famous the sturdy assertion of the #Belarusian Ambassador to Slovakia. It confirms our evaluation of present state of affairs in #Belarus. It is a clear sign from a senior Belarusian diplomat who courageously helps his fellow residents,” he mentioned on Twitter.

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Related Press Author Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.

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